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Article 4 in 2011
First published in ejcjs on 31 May 2011

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Triangle of Power

Relations between the Occupation Authorities, Conservative Politicians and Behind-the-Scenes Financiers in Postwar Japan


Juha Saunavaara

Department of History
University of Oulu

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The occupation authorities, Japanese conservative politicians, and these politicians' financiers, formed a triangle that set in motion postwar political reform in Japan. This article argues that the occupiers played a crucial role in guiding Japanese politicians and political parties during the occupation period. The occupation authorities were aware of the linkage between Japanese businessmen and conservative politicians but they did not, however, seek to break this connection. The study of the case of Ishibashi Shōjirō, founder of the Bridgestone Tire Corporation, demonstrates that it was not even their aim. Nevertheless, the continuing influence of political fixers like Tsuji Karoku was a red rag to certain occupiers at the beginning of the occupation. It can, thus, be concluded that just as certain conservative politicians were more acceptable than others in the eyes of the occupier, some of these politicians' financiers were more acceptable than others.

Key Words

history; Japan; allied occupation; conservative; politics and government


In the autumn of 2009 in Japan there was an assumption that the change of governing party would lead to epochal changes in the country's political party system. Yet, the question of non-transparency in political funding continues to cause scandals. The displaced Liberal Democratic Party (LDP, Jiyū Minshutō) and many of its members have in the past been criticised because of connections to dubious funding sources. The new Democratic Party (Minshutō) administration under Premier Hatoyama Yukio, also ran into money-related troubles. One of the scandals involved alleged loans totaling JPY900 million between 2004 and 2008 that Prime Minister Hatoyama received from his 87-year-old mother Yasuko, the oldest daughter of the Bridgestone Tire Co. founder Ishibashi Shōjirō (Hongo and Martin 2009).

An 'iron triangle' is a term often used to describe the character of Japan's postwar political system. Besides the continued LDP administrations and cabinets, this system has been characterized by a close relationship between politicians, the state bureaucracy and the business sector. This relationship has not, however, been without problems. One of the most notorious features of this system has been structural corruption. This essentially means that corruption is built into the structure of the political system to the point that in order to survive, politicians are forced to exchange favours with businessmen in return for funds to pay members of their faction, and/or to use for election activities (Mitchell 1996, pp. xv–xvi).

If it is accepted that structural corruption and vague relations between politicians and their financiers are typical features of Japan's postwar political regime, the Allied Occupation of Japan in 1945–1952—which presided over the processes of regime removal and democratisation in Japan through foreign intervention—can be placed in an interesting light. It has been argued that these kinds of transitions are formative and help to explain the shape that a new democracy will take upon emersion (Munck and Skalnik 1997, pp.343). It therefore makes sense to look at the degree of success the occupation authorities had in their efforts to destroy the close contacts between politicians and moneyed interests. These relations had already been clearly recognised by the planners of the occupation, who drafted roadmaps to democracy for Japan during the war, as an unhealthy factor contributing to the failure of the prewar democracy in Japan (Saunavaara 2007, pp.145).

Another question is, whether the occupation officials even wanted to break up this connection. A 1994 New York Times report alleged that the American authorities played an intimate role in promoting, both officially and privately, structured corruption and one-party conservative democracy in postwar Japan. It has also been noted that the occupation authorities ' support for the Liberal Democrats had its origins in the occupation period's reverse course that followed the initial reform period that lasted from 1945 to 1948 (Weiner 1994).

This article concentrates on the political forces that defined political developments within the framework of the Allied occupation of Japan. It consists of an analysis of the interaction between the different occupation authorities, two prominent financial sponsors of conservative politicians, and those leading conservative politicians. Specifically, the relevant occupation authorities are General Douglas MacArthur (Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers), GHQ/SCAP Special Staff Sections, POLAD (Political Adviser to the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers, a body that represented the US State Department in Tokyo), and the Military General Staff that was shared between both of the headquarters headed by MacArthur.The two prominent sponsors of early postwar conservatives to be discussed are Ishibashi Shōjirō and Tsuji Karoku. The leading conservative politicians discussed include Hatoyama Ichirō and Narahashi Wataru but also many others who were closely connected to the above financiers, especially at the beginning of the occupation, will be considered. Besides introducing the structure and rationality of the elite network, referred to here as the 'triangle of power,' this article also explicates how the interaction between occupiers, politicians and financiers during the occupation laid the foundation for the emergence of the post-occupation iron triangle. Obviously there were various sources of funding that were utilised by the politicians, but Tsuji and Ishibashi form an interesting comparison because while they had dissimilar backgrounds they supported the very same politicians.

Ishibashi Shōjirō, Tsuji Karoku and their connection to conservative politicians

Ishibashi Shōjirō was born in the city of Kurume, Fukuoka in 1889. In 1906 he took over the running of his father's tailoring business, focusing first on the manufacture of Tabi (Japanese socks with a separated big toe). Later Ishibashi introduced the mass production and volume sales system of rubber shoes and in 1928 he foresaw significant future demand for car tyres in Japan and sought to produce Japanese-made tires. Given that most of the car tyres used in Japan were either imported from Europe or America or made at foreign-owned factories in Japan, virtually no market existed for the Japanese-made tyres first produced by the Bridgestone Tire Corporation, established in 1931. Despite the early setbacks and technical difficulties, the tyre making business turned out to be profitable (Ishibashi Foundation; Hayashi 2009). The foreign sounding name of the company was changed during the war. The name Nihon Tire was in use until 1951 when the original name was restored. Originally the company name 'Bridgestone' was created as a marketing strategy to enhance its product image in light of the fact that foreign products were fashionable in Japan at the time the company was established.  The translation of 'Ishibashi' into English is 'Stone Bridge' but as 'Bridge Stone' sounded better, it was selected as the company name and trademark (Hayashi 2009, pp.121, 133).

Like many other successful businessmen, Ishibashi Shōjirō had connections to the political world. He became close to Hatoyama Ichirō, who was one of the prominent leaders of the prewar Rikken Seiyūkai party and its Kuhara Fusanosuke faction. Ishibashi came to know Hatoyama through Ogura Keishi in 1941. Plans to arrange a marriage between Hatoyama's son Iichirō and Ishibashi's eldest daughter Yasuko emerged soon after that.  The wedding ceremony was arranged and took place in November 1942 (Ishibashi 1978, pp.118–119). Another rising political figure who was connected to Ishibashi and also played an important role in postwar party politics was Narahashi Wataru. Narahashi also had a background in Kurume. Narahashi entered into politics based on Ishibashi's suggestion and came to know Hatoyama through a mutual acquaintance (Itoh 2003, pp.77–78; Narahashi 1968, pp.51, 128). Despite encouragement Ishibashi himself abstained from entering into the political world after the war. Instead he sent in his close friend Ishii Mitsujirō who was also a native of Kurume. Ishii became a Member of Parliament in 1946, representing the Nihon Jiyūtō that was headed by Hatoyama (Hayashi 2009, pp.137).

The war did not separate Ishibashi and Hatoyama and they met with other influential political figures during the war (Hayashi 2009, pp.139, 141). When Hatoyama left Karuizawa and returned to Tokyo at the end of war, he stayed in Ishibashi's home in Azabu and gathered his political allies there as well. In fact, Ishibashi's residence functioned as the de facto office of the Jiyūtō that was officially formed on November 11, 1945 (Itoh 2003, pp.77–78). Narahashi, a member of the Shidehara Cabinet, and together with Matsuno Tsuruhei also a house guest, claims that he saved Ishibashi's residence from rumoured GHQ/SCAP confiscation by registering it as the Minister of State's residence (Narahashi 1968, pp.337).

Ishibashi Shōjirō made the greatest contribution to the establishment of the Jiyūtō in the autumn of 1945. Hatoyama's story about Ishibashi providing sweet potatoes to the architects of the party is well known. Nourishment was not, however, the only resource that Ishibashi gave to them. Ishibashi's own detailed description concerning the developments of autumn 1945 shows that he was not only the person who accompanied and hosted Hatoyama both in Tokyo and in Karuizawa, but he also expressed his views concerning the desirable economic policy of the party to be established (Ishibashi 1978, pp.119–121).

Masumi Junnosuke (1985, pp.80) and Tominomori Eiji (2006, pp.12–13) have detailed  the early postwar connections between Hatoyama Ichirō  and Kodama Yoshio, an infamous racketeer who made a fortune during the war and was convicted as a Class A war criminal in Sugamo Prison at the beginning of January 1946. Apparently the active middleman in this relationship was Tsuji Karoku. Tsuji successfully requested money from Kodama, who was at first reluctant, and arranged a meeting between Hatoyama and Kodama that took place at Ishibashi's Azabu residence (Ino 1970, p.144; Ōshita 2006, pp.78–80). These funds came with the power to influence party matters. For example, Kōno Ichirō's nomination to the position of Jiyūtō secretary-general was made according to Tsuji's strong recommendation (Kōno 1965, pp.179; Ashida 1986, pp.106, 109). So who was Tsuji Karoku?

The GHQ/SCAP Government Section (GS) described Tsuji as the mystery man of Japanese politics in the summer of 1946. Different sources give contradictory information about Tsuji's past. Apparently he was born in 1877. The GS report states that Tsuji did not continue formal education after passing middle school. As an adolescent he set up a business as an advance agent in Manchuria and North China for Japanese manufacturers while still also representing an American firm. Tsuji was said to have taken care of the political issues his clients were involved with. Yet, as the postwar political observers noticed, his interest in China coincided exactly, both in point and time, with the movements of Toyama Mitsuru, founder of the Genyōsha nationalist secret society. From China Tsuji went to Formosa just prior to the annexation of the island, after which he dedicated years to patriotic activities, before returning to Tokyo in 1901. There he set up a business which guided young men and assisted them with loans and advice. The lending was not commercial and the origin of the money was unclear. Among those Tsuji aided was Sun Yat-Sen who also lived at Tsuji's residence. The GS reported that immediately prior to the war Tsuji re-entered business by opening a chemical and oil research laboratory, about which little was publicly known (Confidential U.S. State Department Central Files: Japan: Internal Affairs 1945–1949 (CUSSDCF) reel 1, windows 897–900). Other sources emphasise that Tsuji's career had started off after he had become the personal secretary to Kodama Gentarō, an influential military leader during the Meiji period (National Diet Library, Tokyo (NDL), LS 24584).

However, all sources point in the direction that Tsuji had enjoyed significant status as a behind-the-scenes political authority in prewar Japan. The lineage of Seiyūkai politicians who had been supported and guided by Tsuji extended from Premier Hara Takashi, through Tokonami Takejirō, to Kuhara Fusanosuke and Hatoyama Ichirō. During the prewar period Hatoyama had been the servant boy of this political boss and it was alleged that every time he visited Tsuji's home in Kagamachi, Ushigome ward, he was scolded by Tsuji and forced to listen to Tsuji's preaching (Ino 1970, pp.144).

Hence, it is clear that Ishibashi and Tsuji were connected to the conservative party elite before and immediately after the war. Ishibashi Shōjirō's residence did not lose its special function after the Jiyūtō was officially launched and both Hatoyama and Narahashi utilised it when meeting other politicians. Hatoyama, the winner of the April 1946 House of Representatives election, was in fact waiting for his nomination to premier in Ishibashi's home when the occupiers' decision to purge him became public on May 4, 1946. The purge did not, however, result in Hatoyama being ousted from the political inner circle. Hatoyama continued to guide his loyal supporters in political issues. Many of these discussions took place either at Ishibashi's Atami residence, where Hatoyama was staying, or at Ishibashi's Tokyo residence (NDL, GS(B)03011).

Ishibashi also made personal efforts and devoted his resources to the depurge of Hatoyama (Ishibashi 1978, pp.124). When Hatoyama was allowed to return to politics on August 5, 1951, he was still connected to Ishibashi who was fighting on behalf of the united conservative front. Hatoyama, who had suffered a stroke on June 11, 1951, also buried the hatchet with Yoshida Shigeru despite the opposing opinions of some of his closest supporters (Masumi 1985, pp.297; Itoh 2003, pp.116; Tominomori 2006, pp.83). 

Discussions about the possibility of establishing a new party re-emerged in mid-March 1953. Ishibashi, who belonged to Hatoyama's inner circle, unsuccessfully opposed this plan. Besides expressing his own opinions, Ishibashi was also the messenger of the Keidanren and its chairman Ishikawa Ichirō, who asked Ishibashi to make particular efforts for the sake of political stability. Thus, in the autumn of 1953 Ishibashi, together with Andō Masazumi, manoeuvred the conservatives back under one banner (Ishibashi 1978, pp.124–131; Itoh 2003, pp.120–121). Besides these political activities, the ties between Ishibashi and Hatoyama became more prominent, for example, when Hatoyama participated in the first board of directors and auditors of the Ishibashi Foundation in 1956 (Ishibashi Foundation). Ishibashi's connection to Narahashi continued as well, although Narahashi alleges that Ishii Mitsujirō ruined his close relationship with Ishibashi (Narahashi 1968, pp.214, 337).

Another important residence was owned by Tsuji, who had two houses in Tokyo. The house in the Ushigome ward was a huge Japanese building that was used by the Jiyū Club, the inner circle of the Jiyūtō. The occupation authorities found out that the Jiyū Club building was chiefly used for the holding of conferences by Liberal Party executives and permission to use this building was regarded as a passport to leadership within the party (CUSSDCF, reel 1, windows 897–900).

Tsuji also gave money to Jiyūtō candidates that were recommended by Hatoyama or Kōno Ichirō (NDL, GS(B)03012; Kōno 1965, pp.215), and was among those who eventually decided upon Hatoyama's successor (Kōno 1965, pp.189–191). Ashida Hitoshi claims that the nomination of Ōno Banboku as the secretary-general to succeed the purged Kōno Ichirō was also a decision consistent with the will of Hatoyama and Tsuji (Ashida 1986, pp.117).

Apparently Tsuji's position began to weaken as new politicians who had not been connected to Tsuji in the prewar period emerged (NDL, LS 24584). For example, Premier Yoshida Shigeru tried to distance himself from Tsuji (Ino 1970, pp.163). Although Tsuji's physical condition got worse, the contacts between Hatoyama and Tsuji continued through 1948 and they repeatedly met either in Atami or Tokyo. A rumour also suggested that Tsuji paid for the repair of Hatoyama's house in Tokyo, although a another claim has it that it was Ishibashi Shōjirō who paid for it (NDL, GS(B)03009; NDL, GS(B)03011; NDL, LS 24584).  Hatoyama would also go on to act as the chairman of Tsuji's funeral committee, with the funeral taking place on December 24, 1948 (Hatoyama 1999, pp.639–640).

It had become obvious that both Ishibashi Shōjirō and Tsuji Karoku played a crucial role behind the early postwar conservative parties and politicians. This connection did not remain unnoticed by the occupation authorities. In fact, Harry Emerson Wildes, a one-time leading GS political observer, argued in 1948 that: 'The real test of eligibility for leadership, however, is not experience, nor even skill at political machination, but, as has sometimes been true of certain American recipients of preferment, the ability to raise large sums of money' (Wildes 1948, pp.1151).

If indeed the occupation, and the process of regime removal it pursued during it, explains the shape of the succeeding political system, it is not surprising that one of the strands of the post-occupation iron triangle, which analysts have suggested is an influential feature in post-occupation politics in Japan, was between politicians and businessmen. The rationality behind cooperation between politicians and their financiers had not disappeared in the immediate postwar period, and it cannot be expected that they would spontaneously sever this tie. The foreign occupation authorities were the only group possessing enough power to disassociate the realms of politics and business, but their reform policy did not break the connection that had already existed in prewar Japan.

Occupation authorities and Japanese conservative politicians

Now that the continuance and the importance of the link between the Japanese conservatives and their financiers has been analysed, it is time to concentrate on the second strand of the triangle, i.e. relations between Japanese conservatives and the GHQ/SCAP. Understanding these relations will shed light on the linkage between the occupation authorities and Tsuji Karoku and Ishibashi Shōjirō.

The occupation authorities were actively seeking suitable political leadership to govern Japan. They were not only observing, but also intervening and guiding both the development of political parties and the cabinet formation processes. The occupiers directed Japan's domestic politics mainly through informal and internal guidance (Saunavaara 2010, pp.35, 323). Justin Williams Jr. calls it a doctrine of rule by GHQ/SCAP pressure rather than by GHQ/SCAP directive (Williams 1979, pp.22). Masumi Junnosuke argues that conditions for the success of this kind of system existed because the GHQ/SCAP held absolute authority and the government, as well as the political parties and factions, strained to discern the occupier's will while competing for the GHQ/SCAP's support (Masumi 1985, pp.76–77).

Although the basic direction and guidelines for reform were set by the GHQ/SCAP, the Japanese were not, however, only a passive object of this guidance (Dower 1975, pp.488; Kohno 1997, pp.30). Many Japanese were active in their attempts to be heard and to be befriended by the occupiers. GHQ/SCAP sympathy was often achieved by providing positive information concerning one's own self and critical observations concerning others (Saunavaara 2010, pp.324).

Despite leaning toward behind-the-scenes methods, there were certain highly publicised measures applied to influence Japan's domestic politics as well. The purge directives, first inaugurated on January 4, 1946, were the most visible measure. Yet, even the purge, which was based on all-embracing categories, contained a non-transparent element which caused uncertainty among Japanese political actors. The catch-all category G made it in practise possible for the occupation authority to purge whoever they wanted (Baerwald 1959, Masuda 2001).   

Hatoyama Ichirō was one such purgee who was listed in category G. However, if one wants to understand the reasons behind the purge, one should not only look toward the late spring of 1946, or even the beginning of the occupation, but toward the various U.S. planning agencies that had already started drafting plans for post-defeat Japan during the years of war.

The planning organisations were heterogeneous both in their structure and the preferred model envisioned for post-defeat Japan. The planning simultaneously took place in various committees under the auspices of the State, War, or Navy Departments or, for example, in the Office of Strategic Services. The relative strength of these actors changed during the planning process and, by way of another example, the State Department consisted of groups that endorsed plans that clearly contradicted each other (Janssens 1995; Mayo 1984). 

These planners also considered the matter of Japanese political parties. While many of them agreed that the political parties would have a place in a democratised Japan, nobody envisioned that the prewar conservative party politicians would establish themselves as a positive political force in postwar Japan. Indeed the view that eventually turned out to be victorious emphasised the existence of Japanese statesmen who could contribute to the building of the new Japan. These statesmen, often with backgrounds in prewar diplomatic corps, academic circles and even close to the Imperial household, were capitalist in their economic thinking and anti-revolutionist by nature. Still, they were clearly differentiated from the field of party politics that was described as self-seeking and corrupted (Saunavaara 2010, pp.83–84, 324).

This distinction between the party politicians and non-party affiliated statesmen was transmitted to the GHQ/SCAP and explains the occupation authorities' early policy toward the Japanese conservatives. It also explains why the occupation authorities were ready to accept the conservative Yoshida Shigeru as prime minister despite having purged Hatoyama, another conservative, who had led his party to victory in the first postwar House of Representatives election (Saunavaara 2010, pp.79–82, 226). 

However, when the occupation authorities purged party politicians, they made room, not only for the statesmen, but also for the former career bureaucrats who entered the political world. For example, the long-term premier Yoshida Shigeru gathered a group of protιgιs around him who had experience in various levels of the state bureaucracy. These protιgιs, or the so-called Yoshida School, formed the nucleus of the conservative mainstream that cooperated tightly with the bureaucrats. Therefore, one could conclude that through their activities, the occupiers indirectly contributed to the birth of the strong ties between Japanese politicians and bureaucrats.  

As mentioned previously, the purge of Hatoyama did not mean that his political role had vanished, nor did it do much to resolve the problematic relationship between Hatoyama and the occupation authorities, especially the GS New Dealers led by Charles L. Kades. Instead, Hatoyama, the leading representative of prewar party political influence, remained a thorn in the occupier's side throughout the entire occupation period. Several Japanese politicians, starting from the prime minister, rather openly consulted with a man who was not allowed to participate in political life, a fact that irritated various occupation figures. This matter became particularly embarrassing after foreign correspondents brought it up. Eventually, as echoed by General Courtney Whitney, the occupation authorities threatened that if Hatoyama and other purgees would continue to be involved in such consultations occupation policy would become less tolerant and understanding (Saunavaara 2010, pp.255–256).

Nevertheless, Hatoyama's influence in politics continued and he remained the GS's number one target. For example, at the beginning of February 1948 the occupiers tried to dig up evidence that Hatoyama had held a meeting at the end of December with the leading conservative politicians concerning the establishment of a new party. This was just one report among many others (NDL, GS(B)03007). Many of these reports also noted the fact that Hatoyama was spending his time in facilities owned by Ishibashi Shōjirō.

In addition to the occupation authorities, Takiuchi Reisaku, the Director of the Special Examining Bureau, the Office of the Attorney General, and also the Tokyo District Prosecutors Office were all interested in Hatoyama Ichirō and his movements. The team of investigators from the Tokyo District Prosecutors Office even conducted a house-search of Hatoyama's home in Otowo-cho, Bunkyo Ward, on October 8, 1948. Investigators did not find anything interesting but learnt that Hatoyama had not been a resident in the home since 1943. The reason for the search was an attempt to find proof that Hatoyama was somehow involved in the Shōwa Denkō scandal that brought down the government of Ashida Hitoshi (NDL, GS(B)03007).

Whereas Hatoyama Ichirō was a persona non grata for the occupiers from the very beginning of the occupation, Narahashi Wataru was an example of a politician who created friendly relations with the occupiers. Narahashi became well acquainted with the leaders of the influential GS at the beginning of the occupation and organised a dinner party in February 1946 for the entire Section in the palatial mansion of Ishibashi Shōjirō. Narahashi entertained his guests lavishly, including providing pretty girls of noble families to dance with the Americans. According to Harry Emerson Wildes, friendships were encouraged and occupation officers were offered every opportunity to invite the girls to more intimate surroundings. Thus, when Narahashi wished to suggest informally that the GS might take certain action, when he wished for informal or advance information on occupation activities, his channels were prepared (Wildes 1978, pp.34–37; Kita 2008, pp.45–48).

Narahashi connected well with GS deputy Chief, Colonel Charles L. Kades, with whom he could speak French. However, the friendly terms with Kades and other occupiers were not permanent by nature. Namely, Narahashi's relationship with occupiers cooled off after the April 1946 election. At that time Narahashi managed to irritate both his conservative colleagues and the Japanese progressives and his friendship became a burden to the occupation authorities. Therefore, while Narahashi was bragging that his friends in the GHQ would protect him, the Civil Intelligent Section was already collecting unflattering material concerning his past (Saunavaara 2009, pp.204–207).

The occupiers did not purge Narahashi in the summer of 1946 despite pressure from the Soviet Union (The Occupation of Japan, Part 3. Reform, Recovery and Peace 1945–52 (OJP3RRP) 3-A-277). Yet, after his political comeback at the beginning of 1947, Narahashi was purged on April 4, 1947. Nevertheless, after 400 days of exclusion, Narahashi was allowed to return to the political world on June 22, 1948 (Masuda 2001, pp.140).

In short, relations with financial supporters were crucial to Japanese politicians, though the occupation authorities held a position from which they could also decide upon one's political future. Therefore, the position of behind-the-scenes financiers and behind-the-scenes American guides of Japanese politics resembled each other. It is, thus, not surprising that the occupiers and the financiers observed and interacted with each other.

Occupation authorities and the financiers of the Japanese conservatives

Richard H. Mitchell (1996, pp.xv–xvi) claims that political bribery continued to flourish during the occupation, and The American Council on Japan argued in 1949 that the occupational personnel did not practise the democratic virtues that they were preaching and claimed that some American officials were bribed (CUSSDCF reel 3 windows 756, 759). Yet, there are only a few references made by the former occupation authorities to their unofficial relations with the financiers of Japanese politics. Theodore Cohen (1987, pp.108–110), Economic and Scientific Section (ESS) officer, claims that in 1946 and in early 1947, GHQ/SCAP officials happily welcomed the efforts of Japanese Government officials and businessmen to get to know them by way of entertainment. Cohen continues that while the ESS was one of the special targets, he does not know of any part of GHQ/SCAP that would have been excluded from such overtures. Harry Emerson Wildes (1978, pp.35–37) also states that the ESS was one target of such lavish entertainment. This was not surprising as this was the section through which big business was controlled, and contracts approved, although he also admits that his own section was treated well.

The descriptions provided by Cohen and Wildes lack names with the exception of Andō Akira. Andō is claimed to have thrown geisha parties for Americans in a position to award contracts and placed his bordellos at their disposal. However, Andō offered bribes too openly, and when he boasted that a powerful American general was his chief protector he was arrested for possessing black-market goods. He went to jail for six months, but upon his release in September 1947 Andō received a contract for crafting and transporting machinery and tools for reparation payments. His guest book, which reportedly contained the names of the hundreds of occupation officers whom he had befriended, was confiscated and disappeared from sight. Wildes seems to hint that the difference between Andō's parties and those organised by Narahashi was the level of sophistication. In the case of Andō, the bait was dangled by industrialists rather than statesman and thus the approach was cruder (Wildes 1978, pp.34–37; Cohen 1987, pp.108–110; Gayn 1981, pp.124–125).

The case of Andō shows that the power of the occupation authorities reached beyond the politicians who could be purged from the parliament and other public offices. Therefore, it is not a surprise that the occupiers found various methods to pursue Tsuji, who had never held a post from which he could have been purged.

The flow of money from Kodama Yoshio to Hatoyama through Tsuji in autumn of 1945 was known by the occupation authorities by at least April 1946 (NDL, GS(B)03313). An extensive GS report concerning the Nihon Jiyūtō that Wildes wrote in summer of 1946 as a part of the wider re-evaluation of the political party field lacks references to Tsuji or Ishibashi Shōjirō. However, these two figures and their past and current connections and donations to Hatoyama Ichirō were emphasised in the GS's late-July and early-August reports that reflected the irritation felt because of the continuing political activity of Hatoyama. While the occupiers acted first against the politicians who had been supported by Tsuji, they paid more attention to Tsuji himself from late summer of 1946. For example, the memorandum introducing Tsuji and his past was submitted on August 16 and a GS report from August 9 based on a conversation with Kōno Ichirō and Tsuji Karoku states that the latter collected money from various business and industrial interests while Ishibashi made straight donations to Hatoyama. Funds coming from Tsuji and Ishibashi were alleged to have been controlled by Hatoyama alone (GS(B)00907-00908; NDL, GS(B)03438; NDL, JW-41-14; National Archives, College Park, USA (NARA), RG 331, box 2142, folder 2).

Ishibashi's campaign donations to Hatoyama had already been brought up in April 1946 by the communist newspaper Akahata (CUSSDCF reel 3 window 265). Furthermore, an intelligence report from May 3, 1946 connected Narahashi to the Ishibashi family. Ishibashi Shōjirō and his brother were introduced as the 'rubber kings of Japan' who managed several factories in Java after the Japanese forces confiscated them. Narahashi was introduced as a consultant and advisor to Ishibashi and he was mentioned, together with Makino Ryōzō, as a possible go-between in the marriage between the Ishibashi and Hatoyama families. The report also referred to a published rumour that at least three million yen was supplied to Hatoyama by Ishibashi. Hatoyama, Narahashi, Makino and a group of other politicians were also claimed to have received funds from Ishibashi for general election purposes until the April 1942 general election (NDL, GS(B)03313).

It is, in other words, obvious that the occupation authorities were aware of the role both Ishibashi and Tsuji played in influencing individual politicians and the Japanese political parties, especially the Jiyūtō. But how did they react to this information?

The study of the case of Tsuji Karoku demonstrates that the occupation authorities were ready to act if they found certain political financiers unacceptable. However, the case of Ishibashi Shōjirō hints toward a conclusion that the occupation authorities did not intervene in the close ties between the Japanese politicians and influential Japanese businessman. There is a temptation to argue that Tsuji was hounded by the GS New Dealer-wing because he supported Hatoyama Ichirō, but as both Tsuji and Ishibashi had supported the same politicians, one may assume that Tsuji's unacceptability derived from his status in Japanese society and the origin of the money he was pumping into politics. While being a politically active businessman was acceptable, being a political fixer with prewar baggage did not fit into a new democratic Japan and thus was unacceptable.

When the Tokyo District Prosecutors Office raided Hatoyama's home in Tokyo and villas elsewhere on October 8, 1948, they also raided Ishibashi's property. Likewise, Ishibashi was called up to the Tokyo District Prosecutors Office to answer questions about Hatoyama's post-purge activities (Ishibashi 1978, pp.123). Yet, neither of these issues caused any harm to Ishibashi. If the occupation authorities had wished to punish Ishibashi because of his close relations with Hatoyama, October 1948 would have been a good time to do so, because the black market case involving the Japan Rubber Company surfaced at that time.

This issue would eventually affect the nomination of the head of the Economic Stabilization Board. The original plan was to nominate Nagata Kiyoshi, the president of the Japan Rubber Company after Ishibashi, but the issue concerning the black market and the Japan Rubber Company would eventually became a insurmountable obstacle.  However this was the only obstacle placed in the way of either Nagata or Ishibashi. Eventually the Tokyo District Prosecutors Office concluded that Nagata had nothing to do with the black market activities in which the company had participated during the era of the previous president of the company, namely Ishibashi. (NDL, GS(B)03363). Seemingly, the occupation authorities were not overly eager to pursue Ishibashi and certainly this unused opportunity to attack Ishibashi could not be attributed to ignorance. In fact, the GS archives consist of a document dated on October 19, 1948 where it is stated that Nagata was closely associated with Ishibashi and a hand-written marking continues that Hatoyama was the son-in-law of Ishibashi (NDL, GS(B)03363).

The study of the rubber industry and reparations policy does not reveal any special hostility toward Ishibashi or his company. For example, the United States Department of State was aware that the prewar Japanese rubber industry was dominated by three large corporations: The Dunlop Far Eastern Rubber Company, which was controlled by British Dunlop until the late 1930s; the Yokohama Rubber Company, of which American interest owned 50 percent; and the Bridgestone Company, which was controlled by Japanese interests (OSS/State Department Intelligence and Research Reports (Part 2. Postwar Japan, Korea and Southeast Asia) (OSS&SDIRR), reel 4, document 8). It is, thus, not surprising that the company and its founder existed in the documents dealing with the rubber industry, which was considered to be one of the key war-supporting industries. The company's factories were included in the lists of rubber industry facilities that were to be made available for reparation claims (The Occupation of Japan, Part 2. U. S. and Allied Policy 1945–1952 (OJP2USAP) 2-A-830; OJP2USAP 4-A-95; OJP2USAP 4-A-96; OJP3RRP 3-C-1348). Yet, nothing indicates that Bridgestone's treatment would have been any harsher than its competitors during the preparations program that was eventually eliminated altogether in May 1949 (Takemae 2003, pp.109).

Furthermore, there are signs of other kinds of interactions between Bridgestone and the occupiers. One occupation officer who had a prewar connection to Bridgestone worked as a go-between helping Ishibashi to establish relations with Paul Litchfield, president of the Goodyear company in 1949. The beginnings of this cooperation were formed, once again, in Ishibashi's residence in Azabu and this relationship later turned out to be highly useful to Ishibashi and his company (Hayashi 2009, pp.150–152; NDL, GS(B)03009).

The pursuit of Tsuji was connected to the wider discussion on political party funding. The occupation authorities tried to control political party funding through legislation that was reformed in cooperation with the Japanese Government. However, Colonel Charles L. Kades from the GS indicated in October 1947 that the provisions of the political party bill were inadequate to prevent political parties from receiving financial support from illegal and behind-the-scenes sources (OSS&SDIRR reel 5, document 5). Therefore, in November 1947 the attention of the Diet shifted from the consideration of measures for the regulation of all aspects of political party organisation to measures for the regulation of political party finances. This shift was made in part due to the fact that public attention was directed toward party and election finances by the investigation of the Illegal Property Transaction Investigation Committee (IPTIC, Futō zaisan torihiki chōsa kai) of the House of Representatives (OSS&SDIRR reel 5, document 17).

The roots of the IPTIC were in the Hoarded Goods Committee that was established within the Economic Stabilization Board after the hoarded materials issue caught public attention. This was due to the allegations made by former vice-minister Sekō Kōichi who charged that at least a hundred billion yen worth of military stocks were held in secret by big-business concerns. The Hoarded Goods Committee that was originally led by socialist Katō Kanju was set up to investigate the charges. Later its name changed to the IPTIC and was taken over by another socialist Mutō Unjirō on April 3, 1948 (Mitchell 1996, pp.95–107).

Tsuji Karoku's case was the first important investigation made by the IPTIC under Mutō (OJP3RRP 3-A-756.2). The name of Tsuji had risen to the surface in the middle of July 1947 in connection to the Sekō case that had connected the hoarded goods to the problem of contributions to political parties. Tsuji was mentioned as the superior in the Liberal Party and the party's source of election funds (NDL, LS 24584). The GS had been disappointed in the investigation into Tsuji's case before Mutō's nomination. The investigation of Tsuji's case was carried out reluctantly and it was even considered that Tsuji and Sekō, his errand boy and a leader of the opposition group within the Jiyūtō, were trying to use this investigation for their own purposes. Speculation at the time was that the investigation was being used as a method to reorganise the Jiyūtō by implicating a few leading members of the Liberal Party who had not altogether been in accord with Tsuji's objectives (NDL, GS(A)02541).

Although the investigation was in principle made by the IPTIC under the jurisdiction of the Diet, in practise it was guided by the GS. For example on April 10, 1948, Mutō sought help from the GS on how to make the Democratic-Liberal Party representatives stop obstructing the study of Tsuji's case and how to call Hatoyama to testify, against the will of the conservative committee members (OJPP3RRP 3-A-780). 

Besides the IPTIC, also the Prosecutors Office investigated the hoarded goods issue. The GS also guided them and required that the Prosecutor General act to ensure the investigation and prosecution proceeded without regard for the wealth or the political influence of the accused (NDL, LS 24584). Later the representatives of the Supreme Prosecutors Office informed the GS that the members of the Liberal Party had approached the Prosecutor General to ask whether anything could be done to stop the investigation of party contributions (NDL, GS(A)02541).

The IPTIC commenced hearings on donations made by Tsuji Karoku to candidates for the Diet in the April 1947 election on April 5, 1948. The rumour was that Tsuji had distributed JPY9,000,000 worth of political funds during the 1947 election campaign (current purchasing power estimate using the Consumer Price Index, ₯156,000,000). During the following weeks various Japanese politicians who had received money through Tsuji and from businessmen whose money Tsuji had funnelled to the political world, gave their testimonies. Tsuji admitted that he had received money, for example, from Yoshida Hikotarō, president of the Midori Sangyo Company, and Nakasone Ikutarō, who was connected to the illegal deals in hoarded goods. Likewise, he confessed to various donations to several individual conservative politicians.

Hatoyama Ichirō also gave his testimony on April 14 in which he admitted a private connection to Tsuji but denied that it was political in nature. Hatoyama, in other words, recognised the donations to individuals, but denied that Tsuji would have played any role in the establishment of the Jiyūtō or that he would know anything about the hoarded goods scandal or Tsuji΄s involvement in it (NDL, GS(A)02540; NDL, GS(A)02541; NDL, LS 24584). Miki Bukichi also followed this model of responding to interrogation and likewise admitted that he had received a donation (of JPY50,000) from Tsuji, but denied that there was any political significance involved in the deal (NDL, LS 24584).

Eventually these hearings did not lead to any action against Tsuji and the only outcome was charges of perjury being brought against Kōno Ichirō and a group of others who had made the mistake of first denying the donation from Tsuji before Tsuji himself admitted to giving money to them (NDL, GS(A)02540). The highest profile person finally caught in these legal activities was the right-wing socialist Nishio Suehiro, who was deputy prime minister in the Ashida cabinet (Mitchell 1996, pp.97). 

The death of Tsuji in December 1948 terminated the investigation of his case. In addition, the 1948–1949 period also seems to have marked bigger changes in the occupation policy concerning political funding. One significant reflection of this change was the release of Kodama Yoshio at the end of December 1948, whose money Tsuji had distributed to conservative political actors from Sugamo prison. The occupiers knew Kodama's past but did not prevent his advancement as the leading figure and king-maker of the conservatives. Kodama also developed close connections, for example, with organised crime and the CIA (Kaplan and Dubro 2003, pp.50–55).

During this turmoil the era of the middle-of-the-road cabinets, which were led by Katayama Tetsu and Ashida Hitoshi, came to an end and the relative importance of the GS inside the GHQ/SCAP began to weaken. Both of these developments were connected to the Shōwa Denkō scandal (Masumi 1985, pp.158–160, 167). Although the scandal illustrated the corrupt character of Japanese politics, it did not lead to the launch of any new programs for the purification of money-politics. Instead, the hoarded-goods program, and the attempts to destroy the traditional oyabun-kobun or patron-client relationship that Charles L. Kades had promoted, were put aside (Williams 1979, pp.45–47). One reason for the occupiers' unwillingness to dig deep into the Shōwa Denkō scandal might be connected with allegations that the flow of dirty money had also reached the various sections of the GHQ/SCAP (Masumi 1985, pp.159–160).

This consideration of the cases of Ishibashi Shōjirō and Tsuji Karoku suggests that while the occupation authorities were aware of the connection between the Japanese business elite and the conservative politicians, they did not try to cut this umbilical cord. However, the attitude toward all the political financiers was not as lenient, as the case of Tsuji Karoku proves. Therefore it can be concluded that just as the attitude toward different conservative politicians was fragmented, also the policy toward the different financiers of the conservatives varied.


According to its 2009 election manifesto the DPJ tried to voluntarily disassociate itself from the business elite as it decided to stop receiving political donations from firms and other private-sector organisations. At the moment this decision has, however, been at least partially abolished because the DPJ has faced difficulty in getting donations from individuals (Japan Times 2010). This news reminds us of one of the seemingly unshakeable characteristics of Japanese postwar politics. We could also take the rapid downfall of Hatoyama Yukio's cabinet and the problems of Ozawa Ichirō as examples of the continuance of the money-related problems in Japanese politics, even after the end of almost uninterrupted LDP rule. But is this strong but dubious connection between the private sector and the political parties something that inextricably belongs to Japanese-style representative politics? One could rephrase this question and wonder whether Walter F. Hatch's description of postwar Japan is fitting. Namely, Hatch suggests that Japan was a 'thickly relational' political economy because long-term reciprocal ties, or networks of affiliation, exert inordinate influence over the terms of political and economic exchange (2010, pp.41).

A CIA report gave one answer to these questions in September 1948 and stated that it would have been naive to think that the connection between big business and political parties would have disappeared from Japan. The report continued that the kuromaku was the customary phrase in Japan applied to those who manipulate the strings of power from behind the scenes. The employment of puppet frontmen was considered to be a traditional and accepted aspect of public life. Therefore, it was to be expected that these influences would continue to operate with varying degrees of impact even during the occupation (CIA Research Reports – Japan, Korea, and the Security of Asia, 1946–1976, reel 2, windows 516–517).

Based on the above documentary evidence, these insights reflect well the less aggressive attitude that was taken by the US occupation authorities. This insight also points toward the original question: Did the GHQ/SCAP fail in their attempt to abolish the close contacts between politicians and the moneyed interests? The short answer would be that the occupation authorities could not fail in their attempt, because they never really tried to dissolve the connection.

The previously discussed allegations that US-based actors contributed to the structured corruption and conservative domination, can also be evaluated from a new perspective. The argument insisting that support for the conservatives had its origins in the occupation period's reverse course needs to be supplemented. It is clear that certain conservative politicians, such as Yoshida Shigeru, were already being supported during the so-called reform period and certain connections between politicians and businessman were, at least, tolerated. Thus the traditional dichotomy between the reform period and the reverse course dichotomy seems to be justifiable only when comparing the destinies of Tsuji Karoku and Kodama Yoshio. The former political fixer was chased away during the so-called reform period, whereas Kodama, another fixer, was allowed to return to the political world after it was over.

It is clear that the interaction between the different corners of the triangle of power during the occupation period did not prevent the emergence of the iron triangle. On the contrary, the occupier left alone the close connection between businessmen and politicians and even indirectly assisted in the birth of the politician-bureaucrat axis. Eventually, after the occupation was over, the Japanese Government and bureaucracy took over the responsibilities of the GHQ/SCAP. Essentially they became the third string of the post-occupation iron triangle. The fact that the GHQ/SCAP followed closely and intervened in the realms of the political and economic worlds may have contributed to the fact that also its 'successor' established close relations with politicians and business sector.  In short, the occupier, or at least the legacy of their activities, played a role in the appearance of what Hatch calls the illiberal institutions fostering cooperation between government and business (2010, pp.40).

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About the Author

Juha Saunavaara, Ph.D. is a lecturer at Department of History, University of Oulu, Finland. He teaches History and Japanese Studies. His research fields include Japan's postwar political history and especially the Allied Occupation of Japan. He is presently doing research on the legacy of the occupation period in Hokkaido.

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Copyright: Juha Saunavaara.
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